If you have ever dealt with toxic people, you know firsthand how draining it can be. As we are going through a global crisis, living at home may have been emotionally draining.
Leaving the house is not an option that is available to everyone. Keeping that in mind, I am sharing with you 15 practical ways to deal with toxic people in South Asian families. You will learn useful tips you can apply to your life that will teach you how to deal with toxic people, dealing with a toxic personality, and learning about toxic people traits.
This post is all about tips on dealing with toxic people.
15 Practical Ways to Deal With Toxic People in South Asian Families
1. Avoid spending time around toxic people.
Just because you live with toxic family members does not mean you have to spend time with them. Dealing with a toxic personality can be mentally draining. You want to spend time around people who are good for your mental health and provide you with a stable environment with consistency in behavior. Be mindfully present when you start to get emotionally drained and ask yourself- right now, can I choose to spend time with someone good for my mental health?
Journal Reflection: Who are the top 3-5 people you consider close. Are they supportive of your mental health? What about these individuals is different compared to the toxic people you are trying to get away from? What form of safety do they provide for you?
2. Do not try to explain or make demands from toxic people to change especially if your safety is in question.
This is SO important and probably hard to do as well. Whenever we are heated or want answers, we think simply asking questions or explaining ourselves will mean we will get what we want. That is not always the case and can leave you even more drained than you already are. Some of the common toxic people traits are manipulation, controlling, and difficulty managing their emotions leading to projection (not an exaustive list). This means when you try to explain your side of the story, they might not be open to having that conversation.
When we talk specifically about brown parents, I know that I didn't realize how often I was doing this with my parents. When I started to journal a little bit more, I began noticing patterns in my mood. For example, I would make some form of demand or explain my side of the story. Their lack of response, inability to understand, or refusing to acknowledge my side would make me angrier. I realized that every time I engaged in these types of conversations, it came at the cost of my mental health. It is important to note here, we cannot expect people to respond in a language they do not know or understand.
With that being said, you can still try to explain what you feel because family members are not mind readers. Some of the most healing moments had happened for my family when we chose to engage in conversations. However, there is usually a pretty clear pattern with toxic people, and it is crucial to put your mental health first. When you are dealing with a toxic personality, you want to preserve your mental health at all costs.
Another essential reminder here, physically distance yourself during heated situations if your safety is in question.
3. Have a routine to keep yourself busy.
I cannot stress this point enough. Keep yourself busy. I used working out and writing as my escape. It was therapeutic for me. It allowed me to tell myself, 'I am going to be okay.' If you want to know the secret of how to deal with toxic people, usually having a solid routine is where you can find answers.
Find something that can keep you busy. That may mean spending time with friends, artwork, studying, yoga, journaling. Really anything that helps you stay busy.
Note: Learn to catch yourself when you are engaging in unhealthy behaviors. For example, if you have a parent with a drinking problem, and to 'stay busy' you are going out every weekend getting drunk as an escape, that is not a healthy way to stay busy. Your body WILL tell you when you are not making good choices for yourself. It is normal to initially show similar patterns as the toxic people you surround yourself with as that is all you may have known. So show yourself some self-compassion. You are doing the best you can.
4. Set goals when dealing with toxic people.
This tip should be your best friend. I know it was mine. It is important you have a goal you are working towards. It is SO important to find something to look forward to and not get lost in the present moment's chaos. Trust me, I know it is a lot easier said than done, but it is the most realistic advice that was given to me. Be as detailed as possible, allowing you to know exactly what you need to do to reach your goal. I love to look at goals from the SMART perspective- specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.
Reflect: If you wanted to move out of the toxic environment you are in now, what steps do you need to take? Use the SMART criteria.
5. Sleepover at a trusted friend or family members house if that is an option.
I like to say 'if that is an option' because I know for many of us brown folks, sleepovers are not a thing. I found having somewhere to go SO helpful. It eased my anxiety about 'where will I go' when the house was chaotic or just when I needed a break to clear my head. When dealing with a toxic personality, you always want to have a backup plan. Unfortunately, the unpredictability that comes with living with toxic people requires us to think about that.
Reflect: If you needed, do you have someone you would feel comfortable sleeping over at? Who is that person, and why did you choose them? How would you get to their house? How long are you allowed to stay there?
6. How to deal with toxic people? Journal.
I know I talk about journaling all the time, but it is because I have seen it work. For people who cannot see a therapist right now, journaling should be your best friend. My sister shared her journaling techniques with me. Whenever there was chaos in the house, she would make some chai, go to her room (or cafe), and journal out how she felt. That would help her not engage in the chaotic moment, pull herself out of the equation, and choose a healthier alternative. That is the goal, you guys! THE ABILITY TO CHOOSE A HEALTHIER ALTERNATIVE and ditching the toxic people traits.
Reflect: Journal out what triggered the toxic person, what were their actions, and words? Then journal how that made you feel, what words triggered you, why, how you felt that was about you, and end it with the realization of why it was not about you. (Remember, their actions are a reflection of who they are, not you.)
7. Have boundaries in place. Reflect on how boundaries were violated if the toxic person crosses the line.
An important lesson I learned while setting boundaries is that it does not change the behavior of the other person like we hope it does. Boundaries are about our protection and not necessarily about the other person. You get to choose what you will and will not tolerate. There are three things I like to focus on when setting boundaries- where do I need to draw a line, how do I know when my boundary is respected and when it is violated, and finally, sticking to my boundary.
Where do you need to draw a line:
This is where you reflect on the toxic persons behaviors. What about their behavior made you uncomfortable or angry? You have the option of discussing this behavior with the toxic person, but I always tell people to be prepared for a different response than what you had hoped for. Also, I firmly believe that when we draw the line for other people, it lets them know what we will tolerate and what we will not. when dealing with a toxic personality, we want to be as clear as possible.
How do you know when your boundary is respected and when it is violated:
To reflect on this point truly, it is important to be extremely clear about point 1. You need to clearly identify your boundaries, why they were put in place, and how you know the person knows your boundaries. Boundary violation can look like shaming you for your emotions, guilt-tripping, emotional parentification, not respecting your privacy, etc.
Sticking to your boundaries:
This is so important. A lot of people give up on this early because setting boundaries is HARD! It is an uncomfortable experience that can create a lot of guilt in us. As children of immigrants, we have this profound sense of obligation to support our family, given their sacrifices for us. It may take a while to understand and accept that it is okay to work towards creating boundaries. Initially, your family may make you feel guilty for not continuing to sacrifice yourself for them, creating a level of shame and/or survivor's guilt.
Remember this, you can choose to share your new ways of life, but in the end, only you are responsible for your healing journey. Anything that comes at a cost to your mental health should not and cannot be worth it. Setting boundaries is where you start.
8. Find a mental escape from the toxic person.
Some of you may not be able to leave your house as frequently as others. On those days, it is essential to find a mental escape. Some of my favorite ones are meditation, music, yoga, chai break, art, shower, watch funny videos, call/visit a friend.
Do not wait until something stressful comes up to think about what you can do. Have a plan of action ready, so when you need a mental escape, you can reflect on what you know works for you. In learning how to deal with toxic people, always try to be proactive than reactive.
Reflect: What are some of your favorite mental escape strategies. (Remember, the goal is to choose a healthier alternative.)
9. Find a space in your house that you consider safe.
This is an important tip, especially if you are in constant stages of unpredictability and fear. When you have a designated space you consider 'safe,' it helps to have control and stability. I say control and stability because that is what that space meant to me. I could not control anything that was happening around me, but I had an area that was MY safe space and the consistency of the sameness that came from it. It can be anything you choose it to be—for example, your room or closet. If you can't find the space, substitute it with taking a walk outside or call a trusted friend/adult/family member. The goal is to get a moment of space with yourself.
Reflect: Think about a place in your house that you can consider your safe space. Journal about why you chose that place, and what meaning is attached to it.
10. Seek therapy as a way to deal with the toxic person.
I am huge on therapy, and I also know the harsh reality that, unfortunately, not everyone has the privilege of going to see a therapist. However, I have learned that there are so many options that help someone get some form of help, even if it is temporary. It gives you the kickstart you may need. There are options like sliding scale, community mental health clinics, therapy apps, local support groups, and/or crisis hotlines.
Social media has been a huge resource for many of us. Some incredible accounts are doing fantastic work providing tips, tools, and guidance on therapy. Keep in mind, though, social media can also be triggering for many people, so you want to engage in appropriate self-care.
Reflect: What is your barrier to seeking out a therapist? Have you exhausted all the community resources you possibly have? If not, make a list of every possible option and make your way down.
11. If you are a student, contact your School Social Worker, School Counselor, Teacher, and/or Coach. They are there to help you.
One of the most effective ways of helping someone heal from trauma is having a consistent relationship with someone that can provide a sense of safety to a child. I grew up in India, and we did not have any mental health support at the time. However, I did have a teacher I could confide in and who helped me get through a lot of what I was going through.
When I moved to the United States, I continued checking-in with my counselor. If you are worried they will speak with your family members (confidentiality has its limitations), I would still encourage you to talk to someone and get an idea of what these limitations look like. The support staff put in schools are mostly trained, mental health professionals. It is another huge resource to have when you are dealing with a toxic personality.
12. If you live in a home environment where there is violence or immediate threats of danger, seek help right away.
This one can be daunting to many of you. The idea of even telling people you are close to about the potential dangers in your family can be paralyzing, let alone tell someone you barely know. However, if your safety is in question- YOU SEEK HELP RIGHT AWAY. This is hard for many South Asians as it goes against our family norms. The guilt and shame of even thinking about it can be challenging for many. For many, this step may even be triggering as you may have been told, 'here call the cops', 'you want to tell someone, go ahead,' and yet, their actions state otherwise.
Let me say this first- your confusion is valid. Your fear is valid. I will repeat this again- if your safety is in question, you seek help right away.
13. Find an ACA meeting near you.
This is a resource I think a lot of people do not know about. It is also a resource that not many South Asians relate to, mostly because I believe these meetings tend not to be culturally inclusive all the time. ACA stands for Adult Children of Alcoholics. It is a 12 step program that helps individuals recover from the effects of growing up in a dysfunctional family. They have meetings you can attend and also plenty of resources that you may find relatable. My sister did participate in a couple of meetings and found it overwhelming and uncomfortable. The group members shared their traumatic stories, which were extremely hard to hear as someone who is a first-timer to the group.
My recommendation is to try a meeting at least. It is very much like finding a therapist, you have to go to many meetings before finding a group that fits.
14. Create distance between the behavior of the toxic person and your self-worth.
Their behavior is NOT a reflection of who you are. Keep reading it until you feel this.
15. Remind yourself that you will get through this.
As impossible as it may seem right now, giving up is NOT an option. Life is a beautiful gift, and you want to enjoy what it has to offer. There is an entire world outside of your toxic environment, and I promise it is worth the fight. You are worth the fight. I believe you can get through this as long as you keep showing up for yourself.
This post was all about tips on how to deal with toxic people.